WSAZ | Charleston, West Virginia | News

UPDATE: SBA Approves Additional Funding for New West Side School

By: Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter, Alex Snyder, Katelyn Sykes Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, Anna Baxter, Alex Snyder, Katelyn Sykes Email

UPDATE 9/17/12 @ 1:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Kanawha County will soon have enough money to build a new elementary school for Charleston's west side.

Superintendent Ron Duerring asked the School Building Authority on Monday to give the project an additional $1M to help fund the project.

The original allocation for the project two years ago was $12.5M. The price tag is now approximately $21M. That's because it cost much more than expected to get the site off Edgewood Drive prepped for construction.

During Monday's meeting, after a lengthy debate, the SBA approved the additional funding for the project. The rest will come from other sources of funding.

Bids for the project opened last week.

School Board President Pete Thaw says it will take a year-and-a-half to construct what many call the "school of the future."

This new school would consolidate Watts and J.E. Robins elementary schools.



UPDATE 6/26/12 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Plans to burn brush and trees at the site of a new school off Edgewood Drive on Charleston’s West Side is now up in smoke.

This after neighbors complained and the Charleston Fire Department revoked the construction company’s burn permit on Friday.

It also comes just days after the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a Notice of Violation to Carpenter Reclamation Inc. for illegal open burning.

Fire officials told WSAZ.com that they got one official complaint about the burning citing health concerns and said their only option at that point is to revoke the permit.

Carpenter Reclamation was burning trees and brush at the site of the new Edgewood Elementary School for the past several weeks. Since the burning began, neighbors complained about the smoke and also said the company was burning at night.

That’s when the DEP stepped in and found the company in violation of state code by burning vegetative material without using a pit burner.

Then last Friday, the Charleston Fire Department revoked its license with the company after a neighbor claimed they got a bacterial eye infection from the smoke.

"It's not for us to question that because when you start questioning that then you get into liability concerns or the city would get into liability concerns and that's not my job,” Charleston Fire Department Capt. Ken Tyree said. “My job is to ensure the safety of all the citizens and people that visit the city."

Tyree said the company was abiding by the other rules set forth in the permit.

Tyree said the company had about 90 percent of the brush already burned , but now they’ll have to find another way to get rid of the rest.

WSAZ.com tried to reach Kanawha County School officials to get their thoughts on the revocation and find out what the next step is, but haven’t heard back. WSAZ.com also reached out to Carpenter Reclamation Inc. for comment but haven’t heard back.



UPDATE 6/23/12 @ 11:35 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the company that is burning on a school construction site in Charleston.

The WVDEP issued the notice Friday to Carpenter Reclamation Inc., of Sissonville, for illegal open burning at a school construction site off Edgewood Drive.

Several residents, including Sarah Sullivan, filed complaints because the contractor working on the new West Side elementary is burning at all hours of the night -- and had been going on for several weeks.

According to the news release, the company had violated state code by open burning vegetative material without the assistance of a pit burner as required by the “Approval to Conduct Open Burning” certificate issued by the Division of Air Quality (DAQ). A pit burner is a large fan-like machine that helps contain smoke, as well as helps combust materials cleaner and more quickly, according to the release.

As part of the NOV, the DAQ is requiring a written response from the company explaining the causes that led to the violation and an explanation of remedial measures that have been taken and will be taken to address the causes of noncompliance, according to the release.

After receiving a written response, the DAQ will determine if any fines will be issued as part of the NOV.

Firefighters with the Charleston Fire Department went to the area to investigate Monday and found brush, trees and debris were burning on the property. However, firefighters believe the contractor is taking the proper safety precautions. Since fire season has concluded, firefighters say the contractor is allowed to burn at all times.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/19/12 @ 10:45 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Smoke rising through the air has neighbors raising their voices.

Construction of a new school off Edgewood Drive on Charleston's West Side began last month, and the constant burning of brush and trees at the site has upset people who live nearby. And they’re not alone.

"We do not want those property owners disturbed anymore than they have to be. Certainly, it's not going to be pleasant right now, but we needn't make it as unpleasant as it is," said Pete Thaw, president of the Kanawha County Board of Education.

Thaw says that the end result coming in the late fall of 2014 will be lovely, but in the meantime he wants the construction crews to keep it down as much as is possible and asks for patience from neighbors.

"Any building is disruptive. Any building process is disruptive," Thaw said.

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently decided that burning at the site can no longer be done around the clock and can now only take place during daylight hours.

But if complaints from neighbors continue, Thaw wants to hear about it personally.

"And we fully appreciate and sympathize with the property owners, and they should know that if there's any problems going on -- call us, any board member, I'm in the phone book under my own name," Thaw said.



UPDATE 6/19/12 @ 3:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is looking into complaints about the burning taking place on the property of a new elementary school.

A violation could be issued against Randy Carpenter, of Carpenter Reclamation, according to a DEP spokesperson.

Several residents, including Sarah Sullivan, have filed complaints because the contractor working on the new West Side elementary near Edgewood Country Club is burning at all hours of the night -- and it's been going on for several weeks.

Firefighters with the Charleston Fire Department went to the area to investigate Monday and found brush, trees and debris were burning on the property. However, firefighters believe that Randy Carpenter, of Carpenter Reclamation, is taking the proper safety precautions. Since fire season has concluded, firefighters say the contractor is allowed to burn at all times.

However, the air quality permit issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection bans Carpenter from burning during the evening hours.

That's why the DEP is still investigating the situation.

According to the "Approval to Conduct Open Burning" for this project, "burning must be conducted during daylight hours only. Fires must be completely extinguished and not allowed to smolder overnight."

A spokesperson with WVDEP tells WSAZ.com the agency could possibly issue a violation against the company.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/18/12 @ 2:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Some neighbors who live on Charleston's West Side are upset about the burning taking place on the property of a new elementary school.

Sarah Sullivan tells WSAZ.com the contractor working on the new West Side elementary near Edgewood Country Club is burning at all hours of the night, and it's been going on for several weeks.

Sullivan works out of her home, but says the smoke is so bad at times she is forced to leave because of her allergies.

Firefighters with the Charleston Fire Department confirm they have received several complaints from residents who live along Wood Road. The residents claim that smoke and flames can been seen at all hours of the day and night.

A group of firefighters went to the area to investigate and found brush, trees and debris were burning on Monday afternoon. However, it appears the crews from Carpenter Reclamation aren't doing anything wrong.

"You can rest assured the contractor appears to be doing everything by the book," Lt. Dave Blaylock said. "There's more than ample safety zone around the area so there should be no propensity for fire spread."

Firefighters say after assessing the situation they believe the Randy Carpenter of Carpenter Reclamation is taking the proper safety precautions. Since we're out of fire season, firefighters say the contractor is allowed to burn at all times.

However, the air quality permit issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection banned Carpenter from burning during the evening hours.

Carpenter tells WSAZ.com he always has someone there to monitor the fire. Initially, crews would only burn until noon so that the fire would be out before the end of the work day.

"You can smell it all the time, my eye is all irritated," Sullivan said. "I think they're burning poison ivy which I'm very allergic too -- it's causing irritation."

Since it's not fire season the contractor says he kept one of his crew members at the site throughout the night to burn trees and brush to burn things faster. This helped speed up the construction process, but because of all the complaints he is considering an option to stop burning at night. However, Carpenter says this will delay the process and take much longer to burn only during daylight hours.

WSAZ.com has also contacted the WVDEP for comment, but has not yet heard back.

Neighbors say they are also upset that Carpenter told them he would burn up the hill and not near their homes -- but that's not what's happening.

"I want them not to burn right here, I want them not to burn after dark," Sullivan said. "Other than that just try to be considerate of the fact that people have to live here. That doesn't seem asking a whole lot."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 5/2/12 @ 4:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The dirt is flying in Charleston with construction for a new elementary school now in full swing.

It was difficult for people in the Edgewood area to get excited about the new school. The fear was construction would add to the already problematic water runoff issues.

Now that they've broken ground, education officials say they're more confident than ever that neighbors have nothing to worry about.

“Finding a site has been an issue from day one,” Kanawha County Schools Facilities Director Chuck Wilson said.

No matter what property educators looked at, they kept hitting road blocks.

“We've been up every street, explored hollows,” Wilson said. “We've looked at removing dirt, displacing people, and we were pretty happy to find this site.”

That site is in the Edgewood area, but neighbors there quickly jumped in, expressing concerns that construction would make the runoff problem even worse.

“I sit up all night worrying when we have the heavy rains. I keep a suit case; I keep my security box where I can walk out the door,” Diana Walls, a neighbor, said at a meeting when they first proposed the site.

"We’re just stuck, we're in the middle and we just have to wait and see if we're going to lose everything we've worked for all of our lives,” Cindy Casdorph, a neighbor, also said at that meeting.

That was a year and a half ago. Fast forward to today, and Wilson says neighbors should have no concerns.

“Most regulatory agencies are there on a regular basis, and they're watching very carefully what goes on,” Wilson said. “We have some responsible contractors involved in it, and nobody wants to cause any water runoff.”

Wilson says there are systems in place that allow the ground to absorb runoff.

This school will be a consolidation of Watts and J.E. Robins elementary schools. At this point, it's expected to open by the end of 2013.



UPDATE 10/20/10 @ 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After years of waiting, another new west side school has a location that's been given the green light, despite some resistance.

The Kanawha County School Board approved a plan Thursday to build the new elementary school near Edgewood Country Club in Charleston.

It will consolidate J.E. Robins and Watts Elementary schools.

Construction requires building an access drive and retaining wall off Wood Road, while controlling water run off that's been a problem for neighbors there for decades.

"I sit up all night worrying when we have the heavy rains," Diana Walls said. "I keep a suit case, I keep my security box where I can easily just walk out the door."

Most residents live along Garrison Avenue, which has a long history of flooding.

"We're just stuck," Cindy Casdorph said. "We're in the middle and we just have to wait and see if we're going to loose everything we've worked for all of our lives."

County officials say the first priority is to get engineers on the site to develop a preparation plan including a major expansion of Wood Road to accommodate buses and other vehicles.

"It's very hard to go into a city and find a large site to build," facilities administrator Chuck Wilson said. "I mean really you need the same or similar square footage as you would need to build a K-mart--it's not easy."

The school board originally wanted to build the school at Cato Park in Charleston, but the proposed land-swap deal with the city fell through.

"Anywhere we've gone nobody wants us," board president Pete Thaw said. "This board was determined to keep its promise and build a second school and we've found a good place."

Thaw added, "It's going to be a good school and the neighbors are going to be happy."

The school board had until November 1 to get the property for the school or risk losing more than eight million dollars in funding for the project from the school building authority.

"They don't care about us," Gary Brown said. "They've got millions they want in their pockets, that's what it's all about."

School board members hope the school will be ready for students by 2013.

The other west side school is set to open this coming March.



UPDATE: 10/20/10 @ 1:00 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The second west side school now has a new location.

The Kanawha County School Board approved a plan Thursday to build the new elementary school near Edgewood Country Club in Charleston.

It will consolidate J.E. Robins and Watts Elementary schools.

The board heard from several concerned residents about the location. Many fear the construction will cause flooding and/or damage to their homes along Garrison Avenue and the surrounding areas.

The county assured the public that a retaining wall would be built to protect their properties and possibly a holding pond for possible runoff.

County officials say the first priority is to get engineers on the site to construct and expand a new access road that will be large enough for buses and other vehicles.

The school board originally wanted to build the school at Cato Park in Charleston, but a deal with the city just couldn't be worked out.

The school board had until November 1 to get the property for the school or risk losing more than eight million dollars in funding for the project from the school building authority.

School board members hope the school will be ready for students by 2013.



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Cato Park may be the long-awaited answer to replacing two of the oldest schools in Kanawha County, but not everyone is sold on the plan.

Officials with the city of Charleston and the Kanawha County Board of Education have been searching for places to build a second consolidated West Side Elementary for more than eight years. The school would consolidate J.E. Robins and Watts Elementary Schools, which officials say are both in desperate need of replacement.

Twelve sites were examined, but they were either too small or too costly to use. City Manager David Molgaard says Cato Park is the best option.

The plan is to build a two-story school on about 5-acres of the park. It would be situated between the soccer fields and the playground. A woodsy knoll is there now, that would be removed.

The city and the county would play a game of flip flop for the land. In exchange for the spot at Cato Park, the county school system would give Charleston the land where Glenwood Elementary is now. Glenwood is closing and becoming part of the first consolidated west side school on Florida Street.

The county would provide the money to demolish the old Glenwood School building and the city plans to build a park in its place. Molgaard says a park is something that is needed in that area.

"We would be able to provide a park in an area of town where there isn't any green space," Molgaard says. "People are more inclined to use a park like this if they don't have to get in their car and drive,"

The plan has gained support, but not everyone at the public hearing on the idea on Monday was on board.

"It's one of the few natural areas left actually in the park," Lori Tanner-Miller says. She says that is what drew her to buy her house near Cato Park.

Robin Godfrey also spoke out about the plan. He says the areas below the park experienced two floods in 2005 that damaged homes and some of the last brick-laid streets in Charleston.

Godfrey says removing the trees and vegetation and building the school will only make the run-off worse.

"We want to see if this project goes through, that its not the same old West Virginia plan where you just send all the water downhill and they will deal with it," Godfrey says.

The county school system's architect says run-off is a top priority and they're looking at ways to mitigate the problem.

Kanawha County Schools will go before the School Building Authority Tuesday to request money for the project. The project is contingent upon receiving the money and Charleston getting permission to make the land trade.

The city used Land Water Conservation grants to buy and rehabilitate portions of Cato Park, therefore they have to get permission from the federal Department of Interior to trade land at Cato for land at Glenwood. The property at Glenwood would then become part of the grant.

The public comment period on the project will remain open for 30 days. The city is also looking for suggestions from people as to what types of activities they would like to see at the Glenwood park.


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